Top 10 Best: JimmyO
Let’s be honest, 2008 didn’t start out all the promisingly when it came to movies. Sure there were a few fun flicks like RAMBO, and even a couple of other action packed popcorn flicks, including one about a giant monster in New York. But CLOVERFIELD aside, we seemed to go a long time before the year started to shape up. Even in the summer, most of the big budget extravaganzas left quite a few people wallowing in the hype. But thankfully, it seemed that a small handful of superheroes made it look a little brighter and saved the summer.
In the past couple of months, it seems that a dozen or so notable films have graced the silver screen just in time for Oscar nominations. While there doesn’t seem to be any major frontrunner at the moment, it looks like it may make for an award show with a few more surprises… hopefully. But in the end, it was time to narrow it down to the best of the best. I really tried to look at all the films that found a 2008 release, not just the ones looking for a little Oscar love. Some of my picks may surprise you, others you will see coming a mile away… here’s a hint… one had Heath Ledger in it.
Yes there are movies that are terrific which you will not find here, including THE WRESTLER or any Kate Winslet film. Or even Clint Eastwood’s latest proof of why the man is still kicking cinematic ass in GRAN TORINO. But this is my top 10, and it came with a lot of thought and thankfully, this past year began to look better and better. Sure it had a rough start, but at least we have a whole lot of good flicks to catch up on come January.
10. IN BRUGES
I really enjoyed IN BRUGES in my initial viewing. It was a unique film, but I found some of it to be asking too much when it came to suspension of disbelief. Yet after watching it again, I have to say that Martin McDonagh’s sly and brooding dark comedy really holds up well. The second time around I found even more layers in a story about two hit men on vacation after a job gone wrong. Both Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson are absolutely superb in their roles. And of course, I can’t forget to mention Ralph Fiennes who is just one hilariously dangerous bloke. This was a well written and well acted drama with a lot of dark humor for a creamy center. I’m glad people are finding this gem of a movie for what it is, and not what the marketing department had us believing it was.
9. FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL
I still remember FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL, not for Sarah Marshall (even though Kristen Bell was quite attractive), but for the lovely Mila Kunis. Jason Segel bared his soul and much, much more not only as the screenwriter, but also the main player who is torn between two lovers… feeling like a fool. Not only did I find Sarah Marshall to be hilarious, I also found it to be witty and utterly charming. From Mila Kunis to a fantastic take on Dracula (with puppets), it was very hard to forget this lovable and smart, romantic comedy.
8. SNOW ANGELS
SNOW ANGELS is a terribly difficult movie going experience. Yet it also happens to be a very powerful one. Both Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell give two very compelling performances. Each reveal a very flawed and weak human being struggling through a broken marriage. Both of which seem to be fighting a vicious war using their young daughter as a weapon. Aside from that, there are several stories that build around this small town where it all takes place. It is in this town where the devastating sound of a gunshot seems to awaken every one as they are sleepwalking through life. This is a tragedy that refuses to find itself lost in sentimentality. Of course, it is directed with a skillful hand by David Gordon Green who makes the most of the cold, isolated backdrop.
7. BURN AFTER READING
The first film on my list to star Brad Pitt is BURN AFTER READING. Since the recent DVD release, I re-watched the film and found myself enjoying it more the second time as I did with IN BRUGES. Every performance here is inspired, especially J.K. Simmons, Frances McDormand and of course Mr. Pitt. The Coen Brothers seemed to revel in this little bit of treachery and deceit. I loved the ridiculousness of it all and the way it was presented in the final few moments. A fun and frenetic ride that felt refreshing, brutal and funny, much like the brothers Coen classic FARGO.
MILK is a timely piece that was very reminiscent of recent events happening right here in Los Angeles. And yes, I’m talking about Prop 8, a ban on gay marriage. Well back in the early Seventies, Harvey Milk fought against a proposition that made it legal to fire gay teachers in public schools. And Gus Van Sant has created a rich biopic about the man who fought against some pretty incredible odds. Sean Penn is wonderful as Harvey Milk, and his relationship with Scott Smith (James Franco) is very genuine and real thanks to a couple of terrific performances. This is a fascinating look back at history that refuses to delve into caricatures and stereotypes. It also features Josh Brolin in another solid performance to add to his resume.
5. LET THE RIGHT ONE IN
In a hype fueled world, TWILIGHT garnered a lot of teenage girls looking for romance. But it is LET THE RIGHT ONE IN that gets it correct… dead on. Atmospheric and haunting, it presents the “neighbor is a vampire” tale and spins it in a completely original and fascinating direction. Kĺre Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson are uncommonly good as the young pre-teen couple searching for understanding. While this is not a typical vampire film in any way, it is absolutely hypnotic and brilliantly shot. This is a must see in a world of over hyped horror.
4. DEAR ZACHARY
By far, the most powerful film emotionally on my list is DEAR ZACHARY: A LETTER TO HIS SON ABOUT HIS FATHER. Kurt Kuenne opened himself up as a documentary filmmaker to pay tribute to a beloved friend. This is such an unapologetically powerful film that it must be experienced. I guarantee you will find yourself feeling every possible emotion that you could ever imagine. This is real life and it is utterly tragic but at the same time, it is a testament to the strength and will of family and friends. A personal and poignant film that is crafted with absolute care.
3. THE CURIOUS CASE OF
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON is not at all a curious choice for my top ten. David Fincher details the life of a child born into the body of an old, decrepit man. As the child ages in reverse, we see his life through a fascinating pair of eyes. Whether it is Fincher’s masterful direction, or the beautiful performances of Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, it works on many levels. Most importantly, if the special visual effects and the make up didn’t work, it would’ve been an absolute failure. But they are in fact some of the best age effects I have ever seen on film. A strange and poetic journey that reminded me more of classics like WUTHERING HEIGHTS as opposed to anything we’ve seen lately.
2. THE DARK KNIGHT
I am still blown away by THE DARK KNIGHT. Christopher Nolan presents Gotham City in all its noir driven glory. He has taken BATMAN BEGINS and pushed it even further into a very real world. And yes, Heath Ledger is superb. This is one of the most powerful performances I’ve seen in years. And certainly not because he died such a tragic death. After all, it’s not like this would be his first acclaimed performance. This is a rich and detailed show that is beyond what anybody expected. But he is also surrounded by a worthy cast and a fascinating script that questions what it takes to truly become a hero. Imagine that? A challenging comic book film brought to life. Thank you Mr. Nolan, may we have another?
1. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE
It really was a toss up here. TDK and SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE were neck and neck when it came to my number one spot. But I chose Slumdog because I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Director Danny Boyle has expanded on some of his unique visuals that appeared in his other great works, including TRAINSPOTTING. This simple story of a young man on a talk show explodes into a massive tale of love, betrayal and destiny. Each and every sequence is a surprise and is filled with energy and beauty. What a treat to be able to experience something that feels fresh and new. Slumdog is bigger, bolder and brighter than any other film this year that is glorified by star power and wasteful hype. This is the real deal. If you can find it on the big screen, make sure you check it out, because it really is worthy of all the positive buzz its been getting.
What worked for you? What made you get down on your knees, thank whoever you might that the movie Gods smiled down upon us? Send questions and/or comments to JimmyO@JoBlo.com.